THIS is turning out to be the year of revivals at Opera North. In the build-up to the Big One – the company’s first complete Ring cycles next spring – resources are being carefully harboured.

So Janacek’s Jenufa, in the 1995 production by Tom Cairns, is back for its second revival, having first reappeared in 2002. Despite wholesale cast changes it has weathered reasonably well.

The claustrophobia of the village is still nicely crystallised by Cairns’s own sets: different in all three acts, but all built around a lopsided pentagon that squeezes in the action while notably abandoning its sloping floor for the chilling realism of the last act. It was good to see again the menacing mill-wheel back-projected in Act 1, albeit the only reminder that this is a working village.

Susan Bickley, for all her determination, is not quite the Kostelnička that she has it in her to be. The top of her range was never quite in gear. One suspects the tension of the role creeping into the voice. But she has us on her side in her ghastly dilemma. She, along with Yiva Kihlberg’s Jenůfa, was pushed extremely hard by Aleksandar Marković's orchestra in the first act, where balance was seriously awry.

York Press:

Susan Bickley as The Kostelnička in Opera North's Jenufa. Picture: Richard H Smith

Someone must have got to him in the first interval, because he delivered genuine tenderness in the Dvorak-style musings of Act 2. But the damage had been done, and both principals had been lured into unwise effort early on. Kihlberg’s is never less than an appealing Jenůfa, guilt-ridden and emotionally torn, even if her biggest moments lack that final ounce of heft.

David Butt Philip is something of a revelation as Laca, managing the transition from oafish lout to loyal lover with help from tenor resonance that promises much. The friendly boos that greeted Ed Lyon’s final bow testified to his success as a loose-limbed, ne’er-do-well Steva, the ‘baddie’.

Daisy Brown is a breezy Karolka, and Frankie Bounds injects two sparky cameos as Jano, the shepherd boy. Act 3 is undeniably soul-searing. With a smoother, more restrained orchestra, this show could be back to somewhere near its best.

Further Leeds performances tonight, Monday & Wednesday, then on tour. Box office: or 0844 848 2700